(AsiaNews) - As the Extraordinary Synod
on the Family goes back to work, with the participation of Archbishop Paolo
Pezzi, president of the Commission for the pastoral care of the family of the Archdiocese
of the Mother of God in Moscow, Fr Mikhail Nuzkovsky, SDB, speaks to AsiaNews about the challenges of consumerism and the
still difficult relations with the Orthodox Church, including in areas like the
family, where in theory, there should be more for ecumenical exchange.
Overall the goal is to rebuild trust, not only in God but in man and
society, to form a solid concept of the family in Russia, where, despite government
policies promoting so-called "traditional values", the harm done by
state atheism still runs deep. Indeed, young people lack positive examples encouraging
them to look at marriage and children with a sense of responsibility and a
spirit of sacrifice.
Here is the interview.
What are the
major problems facing the family in Russia today?
big and highly differentiated. Family problems in the Caucasus, where women are
still in a position of submission and polygamy is still practiced, are
different from those in Moscow. A broader discussion can however be done.
birth rate, which Europe also faces, children seen not as a gift, but as a burden
are challenges that the whole country faces. Alcoholism is another problem, a huge
burden that here literally destroys the family.
the underlying problem - as indicated by the widespread alcohol abuse - is the
general tendency to run away from problems and not confront them. There is a
lack of communication, an inability to trust others, of finding time for one's
partner. We are working on that in our meetings with couples.
Moscow is home to many people who just came to work and leave their family
elsewhere. Unfaithfulness is widespread, destroying many relationships. It is
not just a sin for the Church, because all that ruins the harmony of the person
is a sin.
in Russia is also a political issue . . .
the family, not just in Russia, has always been about politics, because it
Europe, this is a more conservative country, but the problem is that one thing
is said officially, which people perceive and apply in their own way. There are
no practical examples of these words and the media do not help to spread the
"traditional values" that politicians mention.
Does the Kremlin's
campaign in favour of Christian values not also help your work?
words is one thing; bearing witness to them in practice is another.
understand what is happening we need to look at the past. The Soviet Union, for
decades, tried to remove God from human life, from the family. Only later did
people realise that Communism's attempt to build an ideal society was a lie. The
generation that is now in power, the adults of today, do not have solid values;
they are the children of the Soviet Union. For this reason, nice words are used,
but then people behave differently. The family is promoted, but no one says
that the family is a daily struggle, not something used to achieve status or comfort.
Where do you
see the greatest difference between words and deeds?
percentage is increasing in a catastrophic way.
official estimates, we are at 70 per cent. Sociologists say that 25-30 per cent
of divorces is a warning signal, because if the family is disrupted, so is society.
grow up without a family look on relationships with their future partner in a completely
There is no
concept of "forever", accountability, no sense of sacrifice, which is
inextricably linked to love.
If there is
no sense of sacrifice, there is only material interest. I serve you today, you meet
my physical, emotional and material needs today, and so I use you. This way of
relating to each other is widespread in Russia and occurs without moral
At least in
the villages, society used to be minimally protected by the fact that people
were afraid of 'what other people might think', but now this mind-set has been also
lost been in the provinces as well.
Synod, there is a lot of talk about divorcees. What difficulties do you
there is no concept of 'common law marriage', which is nothing more than legalised
cohabitation, without the obligations and responsibilities to forge a bond
before civil or even more before religious authorities. This is a widespread
tendency that does not help young people to prepare for more serious
There is a
misunderstanding about the basic concept of freedom. Freedom is not doing what
I want; it must also include a sense of duty. If we do not educate young people
in that direction, we will end up in chaos.
Is it possible
to work with the Orthodox Church in this area?
on this we have many differences. The Catholic Church does not recognise civil
marriages, whereas the Orthodox do. For them, even those who are married civilly
can receive the sacraments.
Orthodox divorcees can also remarry in church, even if their marriage was
religious, because in their view, it is the priest who celebrates and seals it,
and then - based on actual facts -has the right to dissolve it.
Catholic Church, however, the priest merely 'confirms', with witnesses, the
sacrament, which, however, is sealed by God.
between the Orthodox and Catholic influence the pastoral care of families?
The case of
mixed marriages between Orthodox and Catholics, for example, shows the
difficulty of working together. To get married in a Catholic ceremony we ask
for the permission of the Orthodox Church, of the parish of one of the two
But many, when
faced with the application for a permit to marry a Catholic, are denied
permission, often getting insults and warnings like "better to live
unmarried than to marry a Catholic."
In so doing,
the Orthodox clergy contradicts what is instead the official position of the
Patriarchate about mixed marriages. This is due to the fact that Orthodox
priests are often poorly trained; in some cases, they still rely on documents from
the Middle Ages. Prejudice and distrust persist even though our relations have
much improved compared to the past.
It is a
shame though, because inter-confessional marriages, such as those between
Catholics and Orthodox, are the greatest testimony of ecumenism: two people
love each other, overcoming all differences, united by divine love.
pastoral care of the family, are there concrete projects of cooperation with
are not. Where the Orthodox Church feels strong, because it is the majority, such
projects do not succeed. They work in regions where the Orthodox are not the
majority: for example in Tatarstan, where most people are Muslim. There we can
have closer collaboration.
does your Pastoral Commission do?
priest, we meet couples once a month at the home of one of them, then at the
home of another the next month, and so on. In all, we have six couples, some of
whom are multi-ethnic and multi-confessional. We read Saint Paul and the Bible.
We tell each other our impressions.
surprised by how much it is still relevant today. The next step is to apply in
every day life what they read. Our job is to instil Gospel values into the
marriage; otherwise, it is just psychology, which is the work of others.
We also see
each other periodically for outings, to teach couples the importance of finding
the time to devote to one another.
prepared a paper with Mgr Pezzi to take to the Synod?
Yes. In it, we
highlight "incomplete" families - i.e. people living together we mentioned
earlier - are our main pastoral challenged
looks at the need to make people understand, that in spite of their sins, the
Church will not abandon them.
want to work to bring the family in our vocation. We have to go to the family
and do not wait for them to come to us. People lost confidence in society and man,
not only in God. But without trust on what can one build?